Upwell Fen
drainage pump
Popham's Eau

c.1905 with the newly built steam pump behind

Nordelph Upwell Fen drainage mill in the village of Three Holes, was a brick based smock mill, standing beside Silt Road that pumped water from Upwell Fen into Popham's Eau that in turn flowed into the Middle Level Drain. Popham's Eau was created by Sir John Popham from 1605 - 1609 and was hand dug to connect the River Nene to Well Creek. The mill had a Norfolk boat shaped cap with a petticoat and was turned to wind via tail pole. Power to the external scoop wheel was via four common sails. The mill was sometimes known as Big Betty or Old Betsy.

Crew dismantling the mill - c.1920
left - right: Frederick Dack, Frederick Seymour the gang foreman, Charlie Theobald,
William Taylor the pump attendant, May Trundle who lived at the pump house with her parents,
Grace Taylor, Harry Miles

c.1998 pumphouse containing electric pumps
c.1998 pumphouse containing electric pumps.
One of the two diesel exhausts still in situ.

When the mill (pump) was dismantled in 1932, a plaque was discovered -
Commissioned by J H Marshall Drainage Officer
James Seba Mill-Wright by John Seba. Mill owner.  Thomas Maycroft 1853

Some of my ancestors of the Pepper family lived in the mill before the steam was introduced. The photo of the demolition crew shows the bungalow in the background which would have been built to accommodate the pump operator.
The steam pump was replaced by the modern building and diesel pumps in about 1933-4 on the site of the old windpump. I can just remember it being built. The pumps are still working but have now been converted to electric. The corner of the operator's bungalow is visible on the right hand side of the photograph and is still occupied.

Ron Stannard, Nordelph - 8th July 2008

O. S. Map 1886
O. S. Map 1886
Courtesy of NLS map images

Kelly's 1892: Wiliam Pepper, machine owner

Kelly's 1896: Wiliam Pepper, machine owner

Kelly's 1900: Wiliam Pepper, machine owner & market gardener

Kelly's 1904: Wiliam Pepper, machine owner & market gardener

c.1853: Mill built by millwright John Seba aged 25 from March, Cambs

1886: Mill working with newly constructed steam pumping station behind

c.1920: Mill dismantled

c.1933: Diesel pumps installed to replace steam pump

1932: Mill dismantled

1998: Electric pumps working on the site

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. By all means telephone 07836 675369 or

Nat Grid Ref TF 54530097
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Copyright © Jonathan Neville 2008